Vikings stadium: NFL loans should remain

Thursday morning, Minnesota Vikings officials attended a committee meeting to hear progress on Metrodome repairs. They learned the stadium turf will be replaced at a cost of $476,000 and that the project will be finished in time for an open house Aug. 20, a week before their first preseason game is scheduled.

A thousand miles away, both literally and figuratively, NFL owners were debating the terms of a collective bargaining agreement (CBA) that will play a substantial role in the future of pro football in Minnesota. Specifically: Will the CBA include the construction loan program the Vikings have been counting on throughout their decade-long fight for a new stadium?

Early reports, including one from Tim Kawakami of the San Jose Mercury News, suggest the CBA will designate three markets that would be eligible for an undefined loan program. Given the progress they've made to this point, it's reasonable to assume the Vikings will win one of those slots. Other candidates include the Bay Area, Los Angeles and Jacksonville.

Keep in mind that CBA negotiations aren't complete. It's conceivable that anything could be added or removed at any point. But there are enough stadium issues around the league to justify the continuation of a loan program.

At one point, the Vikings were counting on up to $150 million in an NFL loan, equal to roughly 15 percent of the announced cost of their $1.057 billion proposal in suburban Arden Hills. Under the G-3 program, loans were repaid from the visitors' share of club seat revenues in the new stadium.

I'm not sure if an NFL loan is a make-it-or-break-it issue in the Vikings' stadium talks, and I don't think Gov. Mark Dayton was referring to it when he said this week that their current proposal was "incomplete and unsatisfactory." But it is a long-assumed piece of the puzzle that seemed in jeopardy as NFL owners and players haggled over the CBA this offseason. The Vikings are crossing their fingers it will survive the final CBA votes.